Half a dozen palm-sized, plastic gadgets lie scattered across the desk in Aydogan Ozcan’s UCLA office. Each device is a different type of low-cost medical diagnostic tool. Several of them contain a lens-free microscope of Ozcan’s own invention. And all of them rely on the powers of the cellphone. “If you add up all the architecture at the back of a cellphone—electronics, optics, software, connectivity—it holds phenomenal promise for use as a platform,” he says.
By Paul Kvinta
Posted 09.06.2012 at 10:35 am 1 Comment
Simon the robot has just learned a new skill: transferring a red block from one hand into a coffee cup held by the other. But like an eager preschooler, he wants to know more. “Can I begin here?” he asks, lifting the block high. Simon has two arms, eight fingers, doe eyes, and a monotone voice. With each question and answer, he is doing what roboticist Andrea Thomaz calls “whittling away the hypothesis space,” or eliminating information that is not essential.
Susannah Tringe spends a fair bit of her work time, currently for the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, in the fragrant, murky wetlands of California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. Thriving microbial communities there could be the key to understanding how wetlands mitigate or exacerbate greenhouse-gas levels in our atmosphere. Tringe is cataloging the genetic fingerprints of the entire microbial ecosystem to determine how these wetlands work and if we can tailor them while restoring drained wetlands to absorb more greenhouse gas than they emit.
Capturing the motion of macromolecules will help researchers make better HIV drugs
By Mara Grunbaum
Posted 10.19.2011 at 10:14 am 1 Comment
Early every morning, before dawn if he can, Hashim Al-Hashimi goes running. Six miles, rain or shine, summer heat or bitter Michigan cold (Al-Hashimi works at the University of Michigan). His chosen route is hilly for a reason. Just at the uphill crests—when the muscle pain is sharpest and the body most wants to quit—that’s when his mind is sharpest. “Most of my thinking is at the top of a hill,” he says.
Staring into the brains of fruit flies could clarify the connection between genes and behaviors
By Mara Grunbaum
Posted 10.17.2011 at 11:02 am 3 Comments
Gaby Maimon, of Rockefeller University, can read fruit flies’ minds. As their wings buzz under his microscope, he watches the neurons fire in their poppy-seed-size brains. By doing so, he is able to discern how the firing of certain neurons corresponds to certain behaviors. His goal is to untangle precisely how genes and neuron activation trigger behavioral disorders like autism and ADHD.
Trapping and preserving biomarkers will help doctors detect cancer sooner
By Madhumita Venkataramanan
Posted 10.17.2011 at 10:15 am 7 Comments
When Alessandra Luchini was a girl growing up in Italy, she visited the Museo Galileo in Florence, where she saw the telescope that Galileo Galilei had invented four centuries before, in 1610. She was struck by its simplicity. with a just a couple of pieces of curved glass, anyone could see whole new worlds.
After 1,200 unsuccessful attempts to do something, most people would call it quits. Not Harvard University chemist Tobias Ritter. Chemistry research is 90 percent failure, he says. But success, when it comes, can be big. In Ritter's case, it could mean more-effective drugs. Ritter, a native of Germany, had been studying fluorination, the process by which fluorine atoms bind to carbon, since 2007.
In July 2010, a colleague rushed into Justin Kasper’s office at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He showed Kasper a telescope video of something they had never seen before: a comet crashing into the sun. The sight was amazing. But what grabbed Kasper’s attention was the moment before impact, when a surprising cloud puff indicated that the comet had hit unobserved material.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.